Development and technology: two words that we will easily associate. Development durable and digital: two words that also go hand in hand! And yes, digital is today an undisputed and essential ally of sustainable development in all its aspects: environmental, social and economic. Let’s discover together the positive effects – but also negative, because they unfortunately exist – of digital technology on sustainable development. In an ever more connected, ever faster, ever more “online” world, understanding digital as an ally is essential. In order to better understand how sustainable development and digital technology work hand in hand for a brighter tomorrow, training can provide you with the concrete bases to launch the first impact projects. Continue reading to discover together what is behind sustainable and digital development!
Sustainable and digital development: the three pillars are affected
Digital is a formidable ally for sustainable development, it’s true. However, we must not minimize the negative impact that this can have on the 3 pillars of sustainable development. If the negative impact on the economic pillar is minimal, things are different for the environment and the social. Even if digital has a cost, it is more and more accessible. The price of digital represents a real obstacle in a very limited number of cases.
On the social level, digital technology can deepen inequalities for certain populations (elderly people, rural areas without fibre, etc.). Digital technology is increasingly used for the management of daily life, in particular for administrative procedures. This can therefore represent an obstacle for some. The social and societal gap, inequalities, are directly affected and not in a good way. The digital divide is a real concern today. There are typically two types of digital divides: access (to infrastructure as well as equipment or even to the Internet) and use (knowledge needed to use it in one’s own interest).
The environmental pillar is the most affected
The environment is today probably the strongest negative impact to take into account. Indeed, the production of digital equipment (computer, electronic chips, mobile phones, etc.) has a strong environmental impact. Some figures that may surprise and / or challenge on the subject:
- If the Internet were a country, it would be the 6th energy consumer and the 7th emitter of CO2 on the planet;
- A Google search emits about 20mg of CO2. An email between 0.3 and 4 g (up to 50 g for attachments for multiple recipients);
- We need 16kg of raw materials to produce a one-gram electronic chip;
- In 2019, approximately 170,000 tons of rare metals were produced to meet the demands of the global electronics market. The extraction of metals and rare earths poses major social, geopolitical, environmental and human rights issues;
- The Internet’s greenhouse gas emissions are the equivalent of all the civil flights that take place during the year… without taking into account the production of the equipment to use it;
- YouTube accounts for more than 1% of global electricity consumption.
With these figures, it’s hard to see how digital technology can turn out to be an ally of sustainable development… and yet! It is important to be lucid about the environmental and social issues of digital technology in order to be able to put in place appropriate strategies to successfully overcome them. Let’s explore together the possible solutions but above all the positive effects of digital technology on sustainable development.
Green IT or IT For Green: two complementary approaches
Digital has two gateways when it comes to sustainable development. In fact, there are two ways to do it.
Green IT : Do as much with less: reduce greenhouse gas emissions created by digital technology as much as possible. This involves optimizing equipment (computers, mobile phones, etc.), infrastructure (servers, etc.) and telecommunications networks (Internet, mobile data, etc.). Thanks to technological advances, all of these elements are increasingly efficient and less energy-consuming.
IT For Green : Create value through the contribution of technological creations. In this approach, which remains by far the most interesting, digital is a new tool. It brings tenfold possibilities of calculations, automation, communication and many other options. With a little creativity and technical knowledge, the possibilities of optimizing our resources to make them more responsible are endless.
It is obvious that these two approaches are both complementary and indispensable. One without the other will not have the desired effect. IT For Green specifically opens up many possibilities for sustainable development. The only limit to how digital can be used to support sustainability is the creativity of project managers and the technical capabilities to deliver them.
More and more companies specializing in sustainable development This is the case, for example, for Nicomak, a CSR consultancy company which has an IT team and in-house developers. This makes it possible to carry out programs specific to customer requests and to optimize the digital tools to be imagined or already existing.
New technologies have revolutionized our society, our way of consuming, working or enjoying our free time. It is therefore quite natural that digital technology has taken a central place in sustainable development. In order to see the place that digital technology can take in the ecological, social, societal and economic transition of your work organization, contact Nicomak today. We will be happy to discuss your needs with you and explore together the possibilities that digital offers. Our IT team and in-house developers will put their technical skills and years of experience on the subject at your service to create even more innovative, even more effective programs!